So every once awhile I get to wondering about why I’m such a lazy horseman these days. In my younger years I trained and competed and progressed in various ways—I worked hard. I rode my horses on multi-day pack trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and my friends and I did the packing ourselves. These were true horseback adventures—though not as adventurous as Terri’s recent horseback expedition in Africa (!) Nowadays, as I commented on Francesca’s charming post about riding like Carl Hester, I don’t strive to learn and improve. And, as I explained in my last post, “Trail Ride Drama”, my current goal is “adventureless” trail rides. I am enjoying riding my relaxed little horses on very relaxed ambles through our local hills—mostly at the walk.
I’m happy, the horses are happy, my son is happy, but progressing and learning, we’re not. And since so many other folks, some as old and older than I am, make no secret of their goal—to always be becoming better horsemen—I sometimes wonder if there is a small flaw in my character.
Am I just lazy? Or is it something worse. Complacent? Indifferent? Am I neglecting my son’s well being by not urging him to compete? Or at least urging him to learn more new, challenging things all the time? Cause nope, I don’t do that. If he’s happy to chase cattle and go on trail rides, that works for me. When he states a desire to learn something with his horse, which he does from time to time, I help him with it. But I don’t push him. Many mothers I know would want their kids to progress from chasing cattle to actual roping at eleven years old. Me, I don’t care if he never decides to rope. I’m just glad he’s enjoying his horse.
But I do sometimes wonder why I’m so unmotivated. I wonder if this attitude is rubbing off on my son—to his possible detriment. When I was his age I took formal riding lessons—and competed in horseshows. I think my son rides as well as I did at eleven—in the most basic, important senses. He has a good seat and he knows how to get along with his horse. He can make lazy Henry mind him—very effectively. But unlike me at the same age, he really has no idea of what sort of things he would be judged on in a show ring. He frequently sits in a “cutter’s slump”—which you cowhorse people will know is an effective and comfortable way to sit a horse—but it would give a dressage rider palpitations of horror. Yes, he’s having lots of fun. No, he would not win any blue ribbons—in any event I can think of. I haven’t taught him those skills.
So I wonder. Am I a lousy horseman?
I sometimes think maybe I should get a horse I could do more with—Sunny is a good trail horse, but a very clunky mover in the ring. Sure I can make him lope decent circles—but its no fun. It’s work. In fact, it hurts my back. I could borrow my friend’s black horse--who is a pretty mover, well broke, and very smooth--and probably not just lope decent circles, but do flying changes and all sorts of cool stuff, cause hey, I used to know how to do that. But the thought does not fill me with enthusiasm.
And then I read a blog post about a horse that has to be put down because of terrible injuries—sometimes sustained competing—sometimes just in turnout. Horses being horses, they get hurt. And I read about people who’ve been hurt themselves or badly scared in riding accidents. And I start to think that all of us being healthy and happy (people and horses) and enjoying our lives is really the bottom line. Instead of worrying that my horse life is boring, I should be giving endless thanks that my horse life is (right now—knocking on wood) peaceful and uneventful. I remember the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” and I think—nope—I want to live in dull, boring times.
Peaceful/boring—its all in the way you look at it. And yesterday, drinking my cup of tea on the porch and watching my horses happily munch their lunch, I knew that I was happy to be a boring, do-nothing horseman. I like my uneventful trail rides. I like not “working” with my horses, just enjoying them. I like it that I don’t ride unless I really feel like it. I like that my horses are solid and that they have enough room to run if they feel like it, so I don’t feel guilty if I don’t ride them. I like all of this. And if my son learns this way of being with horses from me, I’m not sure I haven’t done him a favor.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to repeat it, mostly for my own sake. The joy in horses, for me these days, comes in the simple, little things. I’ll give you some examples, illustrated, no less. Feeding my horses at sunrise—below you see Sunny having breakfast.
Strolling down the trail on a sunny day with my son.
Taking in the Monterey Bay from our favorite spot.
The simple pleasure of looking past my horse’s ears.
These are the little things that give me joy. I don’t find joy any more in pushing myself to learn/achieve more. I don’t find joy in pushing my horses to become “better.” I don’t find joy in working hard at some aspect of horsemanship, though I do understand the joy that is possible in working hard to achieve a goal, and have experienced this in the past. It may be a flaw in my character that I no longer want to work like that. But if so, I am just going to accept it. Because if my life with horses is peaceful and happy, that’s a good thing, right? Perhaps there’s no need to worry about the things I’m not doing. Perhaps I should just be content with what I’ve got—and the relaxed mindset that goes with it.
The truth is that having written this post, I have no idea if I’m confessing to being a lazy/lousy horseman, or claiming some minor form of enlightenment—hopefully something in between. I also have no idea where the future will take me—perhaps back to something more adventurous horsewise—who knows? I only know where I’m at right now. And I don’t know if this is a good thing or a negative thing—it just is. Does anyone else feel like this? Any insights?